VANCOUVER, BC - The Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) announced today that Vancouver Whitecaps FC midfielder Bryce Alderson and striker Caleb Clarke have been called up the Canadian U-21 men’s national team for the upcoming Francophone Games.
The tournament will take place from September 3 to September 15 in Nice, France. The Canadian U-21’s will take part in four group-stage matches against Cameroon (September 3), France (September 6), Rwanda (Septembe 8) and Congo (September 10). The top two teams from Canada’s group will qualify for the tournament semifinals.
Canada Soccer youth coach Phillip Dos Santos will take the head-coaching reigns for the U-21’s at the Francophone Games after serving as an assistant to Sean Fleming and Nick Dasovic with the U-17 and U-20 teams.
For Dos Santos, who has also been appointed Ottawa Fury FC technical director, the upcoming tournament in France represents another key step in the increased international exposure of Canada’s youth players.
“It is important to realize that the players from this group will represent the country in next Olympic qualifying tournament in 2016,” Dos Santos told CanadaSoccer.com ahead of his departure for France.
“Many of these players were part of our most recent U-20 setup and this a crucial opportunity for them to get four more international matches against really strong international opponents.”
With the likes of hosts France and African giants Cameroon drawn alongside Canada at the Francophone Games, Dos Santos paid full credence to the ‘quality’ of his side’s group opponents – but as has been a familiar motif for Canada’s youth program – he is urging his young team to dictate the style of play in the matches, even in the face of top-level opposition.
“We are going there to play, to impose our style,” said Dos Santos.
“This is the type of tournament where the opposition will be highly unpredictable – so we just need to focus on playing our stuff.”
Alderson, Clarke, and Essa were previously called up to Canada’s U-20 men’s national team for a training camp in Mexico City, Mexico in February.
Alderson, 19, has represented Canada at the U-23, U-20, and U-17 levels – serving as captain during the 2011 FIFA U-17 World Cup. The Kitchener, Ontario, native was named Canadian U-17 Player of the Year in both 2010 and 2011. The young midfielder has spent the majority of 2013 on loan at United Soccer Leagues (USL) PRO club Charleston Battery, recording one assist in 15 appearances.
Clarke, 20, earned his first call-up to the Canadian national team program in December 2011 for a 10-day camp with Canada’s U-18 side. Since then, the Richmond, BC native has been a fixture with the Canadian men’s U-20 national team. Earlier this year, he appeared in all three of Canada’s matches at the CONCACAF Men's Under-20 Championship, scoring two goals in a 5-1 win over Nicaragua on February 22, 2013. The 6-foot-1 striker is currently on a year-long loan with German Bundesliga club FC Augsburg.
Essa, 19, has represented Canada at the U-20 and U-17 levels. The Surrey, BC native was selected to head coach Sean Fleming’s 23-player squad for the 2011 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Mexico, where he started all three of Canada’s Group C matches. At the club level, Essa scored 21 goals in 34 appearances for Whitecaps FC’s U-18 side in the United States Soccer Development Academy (USSDA) this past season.
Fisk, 20, has appeared for Canada at the U-20 level, making three appearances for his country at the 2013 CONCACAF U-20 men’s championship. The Vancouver, BC native, who is currently on loan from Whitecaps FC U-23’s side, joined Alderson at USL PRO club Charleston Battery during the 2013 season, making eight appearances while scoring two goals and recording three assists.
The Canadian U-21 team will depart for France this Saturday, August 31 and return no later than September 16.